Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A welcome release of Milhaud's chamber music

This new disc of Milhaud's Violin and Viola Sonatas from Brilliant Classics is very much welcome. Until I went out to research the competition I didn't realize how relatively thin the Milhaud discography is. Mauro Tortorelli, who plays both violin and viola, and pianist Angela Meluso style themselves the Gran Duo Italiano, but what I like about their playing is that it's anything but Grand. Rather, the musicians are aware that irony is always just around the corner when it comes to Milhaud, and the wink and sardonic smile is there along with whatever mock pomposity he comes up with. The 2nd Violin Sonata of 1917, written during Milhaud's time in Brazil when he acted as secretary to the French Consul Paul Claudel, is an intriguing mixture of the modernism of Paris, the Jewish melodies of his childhood and the exciting rhythms of South America. This is a work that I'm sure interested Villa-Lobos greatly.

The viola sonatas come later, from the time of Milhaud's exile in America following the German invasion of France. There's a nostalgic feeling in this music that's suited to the sound of the viola; Milhaud evokes a France of the past through dance rhythms of the Baroque period, and more folk-tunes of his younger days. This whole project, including the fine choice of cover artwork (a landscape of Aix en Provence by Cezanne, is so very appealing.

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